Jobs on Main Street

Q: Where are the jobs these days? I have been looking at retail in and around my hometown. Is there an industry that is now hiring? Retail is especially of interest to me.

A: Unfortunately, you are not alone in wondering where the jobs are these days, but there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Both Wall Street and Main Street received some unexpected good news last week when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported new job losses were far fewer than had been forecast for the month of November. Although retail trade employment fell by 15,000 positions, there were hints this decline was driven by stores using temporary services to fill their seasonal needs instead of making direct hires. Also last week, the national unemployment rate dipped to 10 percent, a sort of unanticipated sign of optimism. Some feel that this may be a temporary dip though. Massachusetts is faring a bit better with the October 2009 unemployment rate falling to 8.9 percent.

Although there are jobs to be found, the number of people competing for available positions remains at historically high levels. I contacted Jack Speranza, Principal of Main Street Ventures in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Main Street Ventures helps build and grow businesses along the main streets within our cities and towns. Speranza offers a job search strategy that uses the same principles as successful retail marketing strategy:
1. Advertising — for a business, clear messaging and consistent advertising is critical to bringing customers in the door. Think about taking the same tactic in your job search. What are your personal attributes and skills that make you different from other job seekers? Why will these differences make you a better employee? What problems are you going to solve for your hiring manager? Short, clear and compelling answers to these questions should make up the skeleton of your personal “advertising campaign” to employers (i.e., your resume, your cover letters and your personal conversations).
2. Generate Referrals — Successful retailers do not just wait for their customers to come to them; they actively create opportunities to draw people in the door. They participate in trade or retail shows, join local associations, offer to give free seminars, and much more, all in an effort to increase awareness and solicit referrals. Word of mouth is a powerful networking tool. .
Reach out to everyone you know. Tell them you’re looking for work. Use the messaging from your “advertising campaign” to show them why you would be a great hire for the right organization. Don’t stop there. Make sure they have a clear idea of the kind of job you’re looking to land (sales associate, merchandising, etc.), and identify 2 or
3 of the companies you are targeting. People are better able to help when they have meaningful details about who you are, what you’re looking to do, and for whom you want to do it.
3. Outclass the Competition — Top retailers share common traits — they have a clean and attractive physical spaces filled with knowledgeable staff operating within a culture based upon “out-servicing” their competitors at every turn. Positioning yourself to outclass the competition in your job search will demonstrate to prospective employers how you will help them outclass their own competition in the marketplace.
I agree with Speranza. There are certainly some parallels between your job search and a successful retailer. You are both selling (either a product or a service) in a very competitive marketplace.

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